Minkah Fitzpatrick came out of this game against the Dallas Cowboys with his second and third takeaways of the season, catching a fumble off of a completed pass that bounced right into his chest from a strip by Cameron Sutton and then snagging an interception in the end zone in the second half.
But one could argue that his biggest play of the game, for the second week in a row, came on the final play of the game. Last week, when Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson looked to throw into the end zone with time expiring to take the lead, Fitzpatrick did go for the interception on a high-thrown ball looking for Chris Moore, but Justin Layne hit the pair of them and knocked the ball loose.
This time, he wasn’t looking to pick the ball off. On a low-angled throw by Garrett Gilbert, the third-year safety jumped out in front of not only the intended receiver but also Robert Spillane and violently batted the ball down to force the incompletion and end the game, knowing that, in that situation, it was the safest play to make.
How is it that he was in the right place at the right time on the biggest play of the game two weeks in a row? It’s the sort of question that used to be asked of Ed Reed all the time, a Hall of Fame safety who always seemed to get the ‘easy’ interception because he was in the right place at the right time. So how does that happen consistently?
“Just reading the keys, being in the right position, knowing what the offense is trying to do”, Fitzpatrick told reporters after the game, via video of the interview provided by the team’s media department. “Everybody wants to think it’s just being in the right spot. It’s more than that. I could have been anywhere on the field if I’m not looking at the right keys, if my teammates aren’t doing the right thing around me. But everybody’s was doing their part, everybody has good eyes. Just being where you’re supposed to be, plays are gonna happen”.
Fitzpatrick finished the game with six total tackles, an interception, a pass defensed, and a fumble recovery. Halfway through the year, he has 36 tackles with two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery to his name, with a defensive touchdown.
The Steelers are now 16-6 since they acquired the former 11th-overall pick in the 2019 season in exchange for a first-round draft pick. He made the first-team All-Pro team last year, and again seems to be getting around the ball. While his impact for most of the 2020 season hasn’t been as ‘obvious’ and flashy as it was a year ago, make no mistake, he is one of the reasons that they are 8-0.